By Shannon Kingman
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice. “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” said the Cat.
Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire cat of Alice in Wonderland said it best – knowing how to progress as an organization begins with determining precisely where it is you want to go. The strategic direction of any organization begins first with a vision. Consider Herb Kelleher, who in 1967 envisioned the possibility that air travel could compete on price with car travel. Thus, he created Southwest Airlines as “The Low Cost Airline,” and all of the company’s plans were founded in this underlying vision. (1)
The same principle holds true in the nonprofit sector. A vision of betterment in some particular area is typically the driving force behind nonprofit institutions. Strategy, then, is the consideration of choices that seek to deliver the best return on scarce resources. And most every nonprofit knows two things: Resources – finances, time, staffing, etc. – can be scarce; and Deploying these resources to their highest and best use directly impacts the lives of the individuals and communities you serve.
So how do you create and deliver on the best strategy for your organization? Hint: the answer is a strategic plan. A strategic planning process considers all of the forces at work within your environment – economic, political, technological, as well as internal structures, systems, and processes – to create a comprehensive strategic plan ranging anywhere from three to five years into the future. The use of data and analytics to drive decision making is also becoming increasingly valuable in the nonprofit sector. It’s a topic worthy of further exploration at a later date.
The benefits of operating along the path set forth by a strategic plan are numerous. Allow me to highlight three such benefits. In addition to enabling a targeted and efficient use of resources, a plan also helps to align the people within an organization along a shared course. Every individual, no matter their place in the organizational hierarchy, should understand the part they play in contributing to your strategic plan. Knowing how one’s role and daily tasks affect a greater plan can go a long way in building positive culture and reducing staff turnover. Finally, a well-defined strategic plan helps to engage donors. While many people may feel drawn to your mission and area of impact, they will be more likely to give when they can see a thoughtful plan designed to move the organization toward its stated goals.
Strategic plans, and sometimes even visions, have a shelf life. A strategic plan is just that – a plan – that must be periodically examined and adjusted to reflect current and future realities as new information emerges.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go” said the Cat – “…so long as I get somewhere.” – added Alice. Unlike Alice, we don’t have the luxury of living in a fairytale. Instead, in our reality of meaningful missions but finite resources, a strategic plan ensures that you arrive at your “somewhere” more efficiently than did Alice.
Lee+ Associates offers strategic planning services conducted by experts in Organizational Development who have lead and implemented strategic planning so they understand the process in all its permutations. We don’t lead from theory. We lead from experience. Our strategic plans are tailored to your organization’s needs, and budget.